A new take on fighting multi-drug resistant bacteria

Two UH researchers have won a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop technology that will quickly suggest the most promising combinations of antibiotics to kill certain resistant bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.”

“People are dying, there’s no question about that. And it’s because bacteria – time and again – have come up with ways to fight back against the antibiotics we are throwing at them and survive,” said College of Pharmacy professor Vincent Tam who, along with Michael Nikolaou, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, intends to even the score with bacteria by optimizing clinical use of antibiotic combinations to combat resistance.

“In the war of people versus bacteria, bacteria are winning,” said Tam. It’s not just because they reproduce every 20 minutes and outnumber all of us (estimates propose five million trillion-trillion bacteria), they also have become more sophisticated and resistant. Thirty years ago, the chances of bacteria being resistant to ampicillin, a common antibiotic, was 5 percent. Today it is more than 50 percent.

Combining antibiotics has emerged as a typical practice to treat infections caused by virulent strains of bacteria resistant to a single antibiotic. But quickly choosing the correct combination is tricky. For instance, the antibiotic prescribed for a wound infection is not the same one prescribed for strep throat or a myriad of other infections.

Source: Eurekalert

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